Southwest University Park: A beacon of hope following El Paso mass shooting

El Paso Strong

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In the days following the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at the El Paso Cielo Vista Walmart, sports seemed trivial after 23 of our neighbors died in the deadliest racially-charged attack in modern American history. However, Southwest University Park served as a beacon of hope in the wake of tragedy.

“It was just an awful day,” said El Paso Chihuahuas General Manager Brad Taylor. “Immediately we started thinking if we could provide a space for people to pick things up. Can we donate blood, can we deliver water — we did all those things. As we started thinking about that beautiful ballpark that is a community center, how can we help heal?”

El Paso Locomotive FC was scheduled to play Portland the night of Aug. 3. The match was postponed.

“It became quite clear that soccer needed to take a backseat — sports needed to take a backseat,” said MountainStar Sports Group President Alan Ledford.

MountainStar Sports Group is the organization who owns the Chihuahuas and Locomotive FC.

On Aug. 7, 2019, the Chihuahuas returned home for the first sporting event since the shooting. ‘The Dogs’ played Round Rock that night. Players wore their road uniforms — the ones with “El Paso” across their chests for the first time in team history to honor the victims.

“It’s a reminder of the strength, the power of sports, and the role it can play in a community” said Ledford.

“Sports brings everyone together. That’s what sporting events do,” said MountainStar Sports Group Sr. Director, Marketing & Communications. “It’s the most beautiful way to commemorate things that have happened that are not always good.”

One week later, the Downtown Ballpark hosted thousands of El Pasoans for a community memorial. Three days after that, Locomotive FC returned home for a match against Tacoma. Southwest University Park quickly became the city’s heartbeat.

“It’s hard to put into words what that means, but if you were there you could feel it — you could almost touch it,” said Locomotive FC General Manager Andrew Forrest.

“This is a small big town,” said Taylor. “We felt it.”

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